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Neuro-Programmer 3 release!

We are proud to introduce the long-awaited Neuro-Programmer 3!

In the last five years since the release of version 2, we have invested heavily into research to improve the neural stimulation and overall effectiveness of the program. We have also been collecting input from our customers on how to increase usability and enhance the user experience.

This release adds an array of new and exciting features, making Neuro-Programmer more powerful, usable and more effective than ever before.

Here are a few of the new features available in NP3:

– Improved sessions and neural stimulation methods

– Biofeedback-optimized neural stimulation

– Export to MP3 or OGG

– Reverberation / Echo effects

– Pitch / tempo effects

– Volume normalization

– Visual plugins and enhanced screen flashing

– ALL sessions are now editable

– Improved recording and hypnosis scripting tools

– New layout, wizards and overall enhanced user experience

Try it out for yourself today! Explore the website for more information:

What’s new

Purchase

Screenshots

Video Tutorials

Upgrade from version 2

Enjoy!

Neuroplastic changes found following brainwave training

A user just sent me a link to an exciting new study outlined in Science Daily about brainwave training resulting in changes in brain plasticity (or the ability of the brain to adapt to change):

Significant changes in brain plasticity have been observed following alpha brainwave training.

A pioneering collaboration between two laboratories from the University of London has provided the first evidence of neuroplastic changes occurring directly after natural brainwave training. Researchers from Goldsmiths and the Institute of Neurology have demonstrated that half an hour of voluntary control of brain rhythms is sufficient to induce a lasting shift in cortical excitability and intracortical function.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100310114936.htm

Alpha frequencies and hallucinations

Mind Hacks has a great write-up about the Dream Machine, one of the original mind machines, and its use for inducing visual hallucinations:

http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2009/09/from_stroboscope_to_.html

40 Hz and Consciousness

A new study looks at the significance of gamma waves in consciousness. Gamma has for some time been suspected as being an important band for self-awareness and other aspects of consciousness – 40 hz in particular. This study refines that thought.

Here’s the abstract: http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/19/8/1896

What makes us become aware? A popular hypothesis is that if cortical neurons fire in synchrony at a certain frequency band (gamma), we become aware of what they are representing.

…we also observed increases in gamma band ERS within the amygdala, visual, prefrontal, parietal, and posterior cingulate cortices to emotional relative to neutral stimuli, irrespective of their availability to conscious access. This suggests that increased gamma band ERS is related to, but not sufficient for, consciousness.

Mattel gets into the EEG business

A new brain gaming toy is coming out later this year, in the same vein as the Emotiv Headset and MindBall. This one is from an established toy company, Mattel. 

Yes, Mattel. From the people who brought you Hot Wheels, you will soon be able to purchase an EEG and accompanying game set.

Check out the video demonstration:

[YouTube]l8STHiP7HZY[/YouTube]

Read more about it here.

The sensors measure theta-wave activity in your brain; the waves are directly related to your level of focus and concentration. The sensors register the theta-wave activity, translate that activity into a signal, and transmit it as a radio frequency to the Mind Flex.

The more theta-wave activity there is, the faster the little fan in the unit will spin. The speed the fan spins at, and therefore moves the ball, is based on how hard you concentrate. The faster the fan spins, the higher the ball goes along the Z axis. Turn a dial and move the ball along the X and Y axis.

Anger, stress and healing time

The last few weeks have been taken up by my favorite part of this job: testing new equipment. I’ve been working on making the BioScan and EMWave (HeartMath) devices compatible with our Mind WorkStation software. We also received the latest LightStone hardware from Wild Divine. So, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time lately in stress-free biofeedback bliss.

But some of my fellow Columbus residents haven’t been so lucky.

In a recent study by Jean-Philippe Gouina, at our own Ohio State University, 98 Columbus residents valiantly lent their forearms to the cause of science, in order to confirm that high anger levels will likely increase the time it takes to heal:

A sample of 98 community-dwelling participants received standardized blister wounds on their non-dominant forearm. After blistering, the wounds were monitored daily for 8 days to assess speed of repair.

Individuals exhibiting lower levels of anger control were more likely to be categorized as slow healers. The anger control variable predicted wound repair over and above differences in hostility, negative affectivity, social support, and health behaviors. Furthermore, participants with lower levels of anger control exhibited higher cortisol reactivity during the blistering procedure. This enhanced cortisol secretion was in turn related to longer time to heal.

These findings suggest that the ability to regulate the expression of one’s anger has a clinically relevant impact on wound healing.

Find the study here.

So, next time your boss yells at you, or some guy cuts you off on the highway, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that they can’t heal as fast as you.

Brainwave Entrainment And Depression

Depression is one of the main reasons I became interested in developing brainwave entrainment software. The first system I designed had a depression session I used to wean off of high doses of antidepressants. So, when new depression research surfaces, as it did late last year, I just can’t wait to get my hands on it.

First, some thoughts on depression and BWE.

Many BWE sessions for depression owe their success to the studies on Neurofeedback, which has identified some key neural characteristics of chronically depressed people. The depressed brain seems to exhibit lower overall brainwave amplitudes, and seems particularly deficient in the beta range. Alpha also seems overly abundant frontally, in the left hemisphere, and deficient in the right. You could say that the right hemisphere, which tends to be loosely associated with emotions, needs to be calmed down, while the left hemisphere, loosely associated with logic and rational thinking, needs to be stimulated into taking a more dominant role.

For people who are or have been chronically depressed, this may sound more than a little bit familiar. Rational thoughts play no part in depression. When asked why you are depressed, there really is no good excuse.

Based on the results of these EEG tests, brainwave entrainment sessions for depression were developed to stimulate beta. In some cases, alpha is sent to the right hemisphere to calm it down, while beta is sent to the left to perk it up. This is the type of session I used for myself.

In a study on Seasonal Affective Disorder (essentially, seasonal depression), Kathy Berg and David Siever used beta stimulation to raise 85% of the subjects out of depression. Anxiety and over-eating decreased. Motivation even increased. Siever has told me that more studies on depression are in the pipeline, waiting to be published.

I’ve also seen Gamma sessions used successfully for this purpose. The energizing effect alone is very beneficial to depressed individuals, who often feel as though they are “sleep walking” through life.

The latest study, which I’m going to discuss in a moment, also used beta, and reported some really extraordinary results as well.

However, depression is a broad topic. It obviously isn’t limited to people with low beta waves or frontal alpha asymmetries. Everyone gets depressed. Every few weeks I get an email from a user who used the depression session after having a bad day, or a bad week, and unfortunately most of the time a beta session just doesn’t work for them. This is not unexpected, since depression sessions are designed for the chronically depressed, not to help lighten the mood on a dreary day.

For melancholy caused by the everyday trials of human life, a pleasant relaxation session tends to work better. And there is some research to support this as well. Dr. Norman Shealy examined the effect of 30 minutes of 10 Hz stimulation, and found that it was enough to lift 60% of his subjects out of depression. He also noted an increase in serotonin levels.

High stress levels, anxiety and insomnia can also be the cause of depression. For these causes, even theta can be very helpful. But be cautious when dealing with slower frequencies, particularly theta and delta. Two separate studies (Lane, 1998, Wahbeh, 2007) found that theta and/or delta could actually increase depression scores (using the POMS, Profile of Mood States, test). Interestingly, the Lane study also showed that beta decreased those same depression scores.

Now to the new research.

Late last year,David Cantor, Ph.D. released some of the details of a new brainwave entrainment study on depression at the annual conference of the EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society.

He used 14 Hz stimulation daily for 4 weeks, using pulsing tones and LED glasses.

Here are the results:

After 4 weeks, [Beck Depression Inventory] testing revealed “a huge drop” in self-reported depression scores in the treatment group, compared with no change in the untreated group, said Dr. Cantor.

QEEG testing also showed neurophysiologic changes in the treated patients (but not the untreated group) that corresponded to their reports of improved mood. “The QEEG changes we saw were noted in the frontal regions of the brain that have been shown by other studies to be involved in mood regulation,” he said.

The groups were then crossed over, so that the untreated group received treatment and vice versa for another 4 weeks. Similar results were noted in the newly treated group, but the group that had received the first phase of treatment showed a sustained effect of treatment, both behaviorally and neurophysiologically, even after 4 weeks of discontinuation. “That is suggestive of an enduring effect of the therapy,” Dr. Cantor said.

“To our knowledge, this may be one of the first studies that shows, in a crossover design, that audiovisual entrainment produces changes in brain function in particular regions that are involved in mood regulation,”

I find it particularly exciting that the effect lasted even after stimulation was discontinued. I can relate this to my own experience. I haven’t had to use the depression session hardly at all after the initial couple months of daily training.

There has been some debate over the years about whether the results of entrainment can become permanent. Some neurofeedback books I’ve read have adamantly claimed that it can’t, yet a growing body of evidence and follow-ups are starting to prove otherwise. Brainwave entrainment seems to increase the “flexibility” of the brain, or the ability to switch between one state and the next. For ADD and general cognition, research has shown the effects to be very long-lasting, and now perhaps we will start seeing similar results for other problems such as depression.

Here is an article on Cantor’s work if you’re interested: http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/172316583.html

TED Talk On Biofeedback

If you haven’t viewed any of the TED videos, you’ve been missing out. There are some really stunning and thought-provoking ideas floating around.

Released this month is a short talk by neuroscientist Christopher deCharms, on the future of biofeedback technology. More specifically, he talks about the use of a rtfMRI, or “Real-time Functional MRI.”

Mental drumming

The Scientist released article today about a show in New York called “Trio for percussion and brain waves”.

The show consisted of three percussionists using their thoughts of drumming to create the performance. Their brain activity was measured, and certain spikes in that activity caused the instruments to play.

The fascinating part, to me, is that this was a trio – three people on stage, harmonizing with each other, using nothing but brainwaves.

From the article:

As a rapt audience watched, sounds issued from three laptops connected to the drummers by Bluetooth technology. The musicians’ brainwaves traveled through the air, triggering tones from the computers before leaping to life on the 12-foot-high screen hanging behind them.

The performance was part of an experiment designed by David Sulzer, Columbia University neuroscientist. It demonstrated Sulzer’s idea that thinking about an action could stimulate the brain in much the same way as actually carrying it out. 

 

When one of the three musicians started a mental music piece and the other two tried to accompany it, the brainwaves of the three synced up intermittently. “That was because they constantly needed to catch up with each other,” said Sulzer.

Here’s the article: http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54510/ 

David Sulzer explains the process behind this more in a video here: http://scienceline.org/2008/03/26/video-intagliata-brainmusic

Thoughts on Mind-Gaming

Mind-based gaming is all over the news lately. The concept is being met with equal parts excitement, skepticism and downright paranoia. Who likes the idea of Microsoft “reading your thoughts”?

Of course, to those of us in the EEG industry, “mind gaming” is nothing new. On this blog I’ve written many posts about EEGs being used to play games, or move online avatars. You’ve seen Canadian Idol judges spar at MindBall. You’ve read about light-sabers coming to life using the mind alone. In fact our latest product Mind WorkStation is even capable brain-gaming by controlling on-screen visualizations. For example, one game involves starting a fire with nothing but brainwaves!

But, what this area has lacked thus far is a brain-computer interface that avoids the messy paste and exhaustive setup that most EEG units require. We need something that can just be slipped on and off. The device that looks like it will spearhead this new movement is the EPOC Neuroheadset from Emotiv.

Mind Hacks has a great write-up about the Emotiv technology here: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/03/playing_mind_games_.html

He brings up some good points about EEG gaming. Gamers expecting this headset to instantly transform them into Jedi masters will likely be disappointed. EEGs are measuring very minute electrical signals that have to first pass through the skull, and other biofeedback technologies have delay issues that will render them useless for the fast pace of most games.

These issues have caused some problems already, as shown in a recent Emotiv demo in San Francisco, where they had to resort to using a handheld controller in order to complete the game. 

You can get an idea of the problems involved by looking at some demos uploaded to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDpmSiMiscA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59hgJlQ0tJI

Here is a better demo, but still illustrates how hard it is to use an EEG as a complex game controller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxMux4uEkLI

Despite these problems, I do think mind gaming could be very successful if it is used in a way appropriate to the limitations of the technology. For example, it could easily be used to enhance the powers or abilities of certain characters in the game. In a Harry Potter game, the magic wand could be more powerful if the gamer produces a specific brainwave pattern. In a sports game, the team could run faster and score more if the gamer is in the “zone.” These types of uses, although less sexy than “moving things with your mind”, would actually be a much more realistic use of the technology.

Using neurofeedback-like technology for recreational gaming does bring up some concerns. Suppose, for example, a popular feature of a game – such as using objects or weapons – is triggered or enhanced by the production of theta waves. Given the addictive nature of games, I could easily see avid gamers developing “brain fog” or other problems associated with excess slow-wave activity.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this technology is released to an unsupervised mass market. Perhaps the algorithms used, and the way the games are structured, will help mitigate any problems that could occur. I admit that the geek in me wants to get one of these things immediately.